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Throwback Thursday: You Might Be an Author

From the blog post on September 7, 2011:

If you’ve ever accused a dictionary of lying to you…you might be an author.

If you’ve ever name-dropped Michael Chabon at a cocktail party…you might be an author.

If you’ve ever denied someone a second date because they said “ATM machine” during the first…you might be an author.

I’d totally forgotten I ever made this. Check out the full list (all 36 items).


Lifetime word count

How many words have I written in my life?

Perhaps the most obvious answer is “Who the hell cares?” but we’ll skip over that one for now. I got to thinking about this a while back, and I started to do a little digging and a little math. Here’s what I came up with.

This count does not include “utility” writing such as emails, writings for school, etc. This is only for things that I wrote because I’m a writerish person.

Here we go. Numbers in italics are approximate.

47,132 — Transfer of Power, my first novel (using the term loosely)

108,681Second Sun (a.k.a. The Encircling Wall), my second novel

111,089 — The Counterfeit Emperor, my third novel — all these are unpublished

59,992 — Early version of The Crane Girl — this first draft has the same title as my current novel-in-progress, but it’s so completely different that it qualifies as a separate story

127,000 — The Crane Girl, my fourth novel, still in revision

18,000 — Pandora’s Gift, a novella, essentially a giant in-joke for my friend Pat

25,112 — The Desirable Man Who Entered a Relationship with the Heroine Despite Occasional Setbacks Described Herein, a novella, essentially a giant in-joke for my friend Ben

(Links to most of the above can be found here.)

2,505 — Why Didn’t You Tell Me?, my first Buffy fan fic. I would be embarrassed of it if I weren’t so proud of it.

10,855Impossible, my second Buffy fan fic. Essentially a brand-new episode, in prose.

28,141 — The Witch and the Dragon, a Buffy fan fic novella. IMO, one of the very best things I’ve ever written (fan fic or otherwise).

6,115Summers’ Fall,Buffy episode from season 5 that I converted into a Shakespearean tragedy. Took a long time, but 100% worth it.

6,569Alvennore, a weird sci fi story I wrote a while back.

10,000 — All other short stories combined (rough estimate). I’ve written a lot, but most were pretty short.

4,348Haiku 365, a challenge from my mom that I completed throughout 2015: write a haiku per day (on average) for a whole year.

5,000 — All other poems combined (rough estimate). Again, I’ve written a ton of poems, but word count is generally low.

That’s a subtotal of 570,370 for creative writing overall.

Besides that, I’ve been keeping a journal since 2003, with each year in a separate document. Length varies enormously. Some years are as big as full-length novels (2006 holds the record, at 97,526) whereas others dip down into four digits. But the total, as of today, is 553,199.

All that together, grand total: 1,123,569. About 1.1 million words.

There’s a saying that every writer has a million words of crap inside them, and the sooner they get it out, the sooner they can move on to better things. If that’s true, Crane Girl might just fly after all.

The eternal mystery of the Rough Draft Diaries

I listen to the news on NPR (National Public Radio) every morning — I’m one of those people. Occasionally they advertise other programs that are on NPR at other times of the day. One program they keep talking about is the Rough Draft Diaries.

I have absolutely no idea what it’s about.

Now, I’ve never actually listened to it, so I don’t expect I should know much about it. But I have no idea whatsoever what this program is. And it’s weird, because I’ve heard dozens of little ads for it, which are specifically designed to entice their listeners, and which change from week to week. Generally even a 10-second ad (whether it’s radio, TV, web, whatever) gives you at least some idea of what the product is. Science show, game show, documentary, podcast, reality TV, horror movie, political commentary, classical music. You may not understand the product at a deep level, but you get what category it’s in. But with this show? Nothing.

I’ve tried to piece it together from the fragments of data I’ve received, which are minimal:

  • The title: Rough Draft Diaries. Are we talking about the rough-draft versions of diaries? Or diaries about rough drafts? The latter seems more plausible — I’m imagining perhaps a series of interviews with artists, writers, etc., who talk about their works-in-progress.
  • The ads often feature the host asking a guest to choose three “nominations.” The guest (invariably someone I’ve never heard of) makes three choices, which all seem to be nonprofit organizations of some kind (again, groups I’ve never heard of). The host then says “You’ll have to tune in to find out which one I picked.”

I think that’s it. That’s all I know.

But those two fragments seem completely unrelated to each other. And, absent any other context, the request to “tune in to find out which one I picked” feels almost surreal. A Person chooses among three Groups selected by Another Person; rough drafts are perhaps involved? How can you say no?!

I could, of course, simply google the damn thing and find out in thirty seconds what it’s all about. I have not yet done this, for several reasons:

  • I’m mildly stubborn on occasion.
  • The show’s content itself — from the microscopic amount I know about it — really doesn’t entice me at all. I don’t especially care about the show. I’m more just enthralled by the existence of the mystery.
  • I’m also sort of fascinated by how long this bubble of ignorance can last. The more ads I hear, the more bizarre the gap in my knowledge becomes, and it’s hard to look away.
  • I like bullet points?

If any of my readers knows the solution to the riddle of the Rough Draft Diaries, you can leave it in the comments, or let it remain a mystery — your choice. Alternatively, you can make something up and see if I’m savvy enough to tell the difference.

Happy weekend, and may all your diary drafts be rough.

Fragmented brain

I keep wanting to post something longer and more substantive, but things keep getting in the way. Sometimes I’m busy with work, sometimes with Evan, sometimes (as in the past few days) being sick. And beyond that, my brain feels lately like it’s all over the place. Not sure if I’m more fractured than normal, or just noticing it more, but here are some of the fragments that have been rattling around my skull lately:

  • Last night, after finishing Isaiah, I read Lamentations (it’s short — just five chapters). It’s about the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple circa 2,500 years ago. Very sad reading, especially because it uses very specific images of suffering. I think that being a parent makes a lot of those images more real.
  • I’ve been learning more about and how to use plugins, which is interesting. I’m constantly struck by how everything in the world — things I’ve barely thought about, or never even heard of — has its own little universe inside, with its own rules, philosophies, arguments, misconceptions, villains, and heroes.
  • Evan can now say yellow (“veh-woh”), blue (“bvooh”), purple (“puh-puh”), and green (“hee”) to mean those specific colors, with surprising consistency. It’s so cool.
  • The Frozen song “Let It Go” is infamous among parents, but I actually love it (especially with the video). We showed it to Evan recently, and he was enthralled. I keep admiring the animation, the music, the singing, the writing, the specific word choices, and the way the scene operates in the overall story. My brain keeps analyzing it, breaking it down into pieces and seeing how they fit together. I know how absurd that sounds, and I would say that I’m sorry or embarrassed, except that both of those would be lies.
  • My brain does anagrams constantly now. It’s almost subconscious — anything I see, I start rearranging letters. Elsa = sale. Turing = I grunt. Delsym (a cough medicine) = my sled. I think I’m going crazy. Loco = cool.
  • Betsy just returned from a business trip, and it’s good to have her back. (Betsy = bytes.)
  • In the span of a single month, I did work for both MIT Press and McGraw-Hill. I am feeling like a bona fide Real Editor.
  • I’ve been making a big push to work on Crane Girl for at least 30 minutes a day, even on weekends and holidays, even when I’m sick. Right now I’m on a 13-day streak, which is cool. One good side effect of working on a project regularly is that it starts to seep into your subconscious, and you find yourself thinking about it even when you’re not “supposed” to be.
  • Etc., etc.

All done.

Something lost in translation, maybe?

I just finished reading the biblical book of Isaiah for the first time, as part of my extremely-slow-but-not-quite-dead Great Bible Read. Isaiah’s a remarkably complicated book, and I may write about my thoughts in more depth if I ever get time.

I’ve gotta mention one thing, though. In Isaiah 60:17 (NRSV), God is quoted as saying:

Instead of bronze I will bring gold,
instead of iron I will bring silver;
instead of wood, bronze,
instead of stones, iron.

So, just to clarify, for planning purposes: gold & silver yes, wood & stones no. Bronze & iron … (Rereads verse.) Bronze & iron …

Feeling rejected this morning

A simple “could not connect” would have sufficed.

I was just trying to check my email. 😦

Does your ice cream have an aura?

I’m fascinated with etymologies (word origins), and my obsession is only growing with age. More and more often, I’ll hear a word, a phrase, or a name, and just have to know where it came from. And then I’ll go find out.

There are worse hobbies.

So anyway, when Betsy brought home some Häagen-Dazs ice cream recently, I got curious. What kind of a name is Häagen-Dazs? What language is it? What does it mean? Is it a proper name, or a word, or two words, or what?

The Häagen-Dazs Our Story page (which features an oddly sexualized photo that depicts no ice cream) offers the following:

In 1961, Mr. Mattus decided to form a new company dedicated to producing his new super-premium ice cream. He called this new brand “Häagen-Dazs” – a name that conveys an aura of old world tradition and premium quality.

… which is accurate, but also curiously vague. Why did he pick that name? What does it mean?

When you learn the answer, the vagueness is understandable. The name doesn’t mean anything. It’s nonsense. Reuben Mattus — who lived in New York at the time —  just made up nonsense words, one after another, till he came up with some nonsense that conveyed … what was it, again?

Oh yes: “an aura of old world tradition and premium quality.”

Well played, ice cream man, well played.